Nicenes under fire

By the end of Constantine's reign, the interweaving of government and church was well underway. Many Christians were relieved that persecution had ended; emperors were pleased to have a growing religious power that supported imperial political and military rule. Constantine's sons moved back and forth from Nicene to Arian sympathies, however, and thus left the sense of Christian unity quite unsettled.

The life of Nicene bishops after Nicaea could be difficult. During this period Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 387) was born into a Christian family in Palestinian Caesarea and rose through the ranks of Christian leadership. He was favoured by his metropolitan, Acacius, bishop of Caesarea (sed. 341-65). Early on, Acacius was an Arian and thought that Cyril leaned in that direction, so he was happy to put Cyril forward as a candidate for bishop of Jerusalem. Acacius eventually claimed to be Nicene, but ultimately returned to his previous view.15 There is no evidence that Cyril ever was an Arian. Perhaps he quietly allowed Acacius to think that he was. 16

His twenty-four catechetical lectures, given in Jerusalem probably in 350, offer an important glimpse into church life in the Holy City. In these lectures, presented during Lent primarily to baptismal candidates, Cyril first welcomes them while noting the need for secrecy as well as the demand for penance, prayer, self-discipline, forgiveness of others and reading the Bible in preparation for baptism. For him the whole process of salvation remains a mystery. The fourth lecture summarises Christian doctrine; the fifth deals with the beginnings and nature of faith. The next twelve use the Jerusalem Creed as an outline.

Acacius' confrontation with Cyril irrupted in 354-5 after Cyril had sold liturgical vessels to feed the poor. Acacius accused him of embezzlement, called a synod in Caesarea during 357 and insisted that Cyril explain himself. Cyril refused to attend because he did not trust Acacius, particularly after he had deceived him. The synod condemned Cyril; he went to Tarsus and was well treated there. The emperor restored him to the throne of Jerusalem in

14 The sayings of the desert fathers, trans. Ward.

15 Jerome, Lives of illustrious men, 98.

16 J. W. Drijvers, Cyril of Jerusalem: Bishop and city, 32-42.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment